The class is based on Russian trained Alexander El's 20 years of experience as a portrait artist and his personal approach to portraiture. He has developed a unique technique that allows the creation of museum quality portraits in only 30 minutes.
SCENE placed some questions on Alexander El's easel: How did you come to be an artist? Both my parent were artists, so I started to draw very early in life. When I was 11 I was accepted as a full-time student at the Art School of Russian Academy of Fine Arts in Saint Petersburg, Russia. I learned drawing, painting, sculpture, human anatomy for artists, and art history and completed my studies there eight years later.
During this time I learned how to use watercolors, oils, acrylics, dry media. I learned about human figure drawing and painting, portraiture, landscape and still-life drawing and painting. Most of my skills I owe to this classical education I was so fortunate to be given.
Portraits eventually became my specialty.
When I meet new people, I present myself as an artist. "I can draw
your portrait" breaks the ice every time.
What brought you to Winnipeg? Astronomical sequences of random events, like everything else that happens in our lives. Just eight years ago I didn't know Winnipeg existed. I was born in Russia and lived there until I was 21. Then I lived in Israel for 15 years. I studied, served in an army, worked, got married, travelled around the World - Europe, Middle East, Australia.
In 2002 my wife and I decided to vacation in Canada. We visited Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and British Colombia, but skipped Winnipeg. We didn't know back then that this city would later become our home. When we decided to move here, Winnipeg happened to be the ideal location, for many reasons. And we absolutely love it here, even the long and cold winter.
Why offer a course on how to draw a portrait in 30 minutes - is that possible? Of course it's possible. Matisse and Picasso drew portraits with a few lines in a few minutes. But it took almost a lifetime for them to develop these skills. Everything is possible, if you really want it.
I'm just drawing realistic portraits very fast. I used to be a street artist for many years, drawing live portraits in the crowd for festivals, art shows, in malls and other events. This forced me to develop my own unique technique that allows me to be fast, precise and to capture the likeness within a few lines. My clients were always happy with the results - especially kids who thought it was like magic.
What is the most difficult aspect of doing portraits? To be professional, to put the same effort in every drawing, even if I'm tired or the person is not attracting me as an artist or as a human. I try to treat everyone with the same level of respect. A few years ago at the Osborne Street festival on Canada Day, I was drawing all day, drew 16 portraits in a row. Some of them were double portraits. I was brain-dead! It got dark, but I completed the last portrait just as good as the first one.
I had the honor to be a juror at Golden Prairies Annual Art Show in Carman, Manitoba this year. I do Pop Art, and exhibit my paintings. I also do costume portrait photography and even did some theatrical scenery for Folklorama Russian pavilion. I do portrait commissions and 11 of my portraits were presented at Salzburger Kunstverein museum, Salzburg, Austria this spring.
I consider myself an established international artist. I also worked as a graphic designer and illustrator for many years. My wife and I have Illustrated and published more than 20 children's books. How can someone consider themself to be a true artist? A true artist creates because he has to. He needs it, like air, water, food or sleep. Anyone can learn the skills, but to become a true artist, you need this drive inside you, this demand for self-realization.
Picasso was drawing all the time. Every surface in his studio was covered with drawings. He even drew on napkins while sitting in a cafe, because he just couldn't stop. That was his nature, he was a true artist. I'm far from it, but this is also my nature, my foundation, my purpose in life.
For more information on this course and other workshops visit cre8ery gallery.